Friday, 9 March 2012

Rampart - Oren Moverman (2012)

  1. Rampart is an astonishingly good film starring Woody Harrelson, directed by Oren Moverman. The screenplay is by Moverman and James Ellroy, but much of the dialogue is ad-libbed and Harrelson is so totally on-point he should probably get a credit too.
  2. Los Angeles, 1998. The city has recovered from the riots only to be gripped by a massive police corruption scandal involving the anti-gang CRASH unit (Community Resource Against Street Hoodlums. Yep, really) based on Rampart Boulevard. Some 70 members of the unit are implicated in crimes ranging from armed robbery to the theft of huge amounts of cocaine from police storage. Beating suspects is SOP. Basically the group has turned into the city’s baddest gang, eg: its officers wear tattoos of a skull in a cowboy hat surrounded by poker cards showing aces and eights, ‘the dead man’s hand.’ They award trophies to each other for shooting suspects, in a bar in Echo Park.
  3. It’s all relevant because the story centres on Dave ‘Date Rape’ Brown, a deeply corrupt LAPD cop. Brown is a Vietnam vet who regards the police presence in LA as a military occupation. He’s also the most dangerous sort of psychopath, the kind that believes that he’s the last good guy standing. There’s a sense in which he is the rampart of the title, betrayed, attacked from all angles, using every ounce of his ingenuity to hang on.
  4. And this is just one of the reasons that we sort of admire him. You probably noticed that one of the film's dedicatees is C. G. Jung, and perhaps the satisifaction we get from watching Brown taking care of business comes from mainlining some very shadowy archetype behaviour.
  5. Harrelson is in every scene and he’s insanely good. Sinewy as hell, chain-smoking, charming and bent on survival. He even manages to show us Brown’s vanity – his consciousness, when he’s being likeable of his own likeability. Also his terrible loneliness, which is the loneliness of anyone who tries to live life their own way.
  6. There are some dangerous ideas in this film. One of the hardest to swallow is that women love a murderer. Dave Brown earned his moniker for the killing of a serial date rapist, and of all the women who he sleeps with in this film there isn’t one that doesn’t know it.
  7. There are so many great lines: ‘I’m not a racist, I hate all people equally’, ‘you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in this bar’ and not forgetting ‘I like to suck cock! So sue me!’
  8. Brown has a polygamous relationship with two sisters and a daughter with each of them. It’s a testament to the strength of his will that he can hold a situation like this in place, and a bellwether sign that his will is giving out that he can’t keep it together. He is the creator of his own morality, a father figure. But the film's final scene offers us the hope (and by then it is a hope) that although he may be losing his grip, he won't let go.
  9. Even Ice Cube turns in an excellent performance. There’s a rightness in his appearing here, for fans of his album, The Predator, he represents the spirit of that particular place and time.
  10. It's hard to know how Time Out expect people to take their film reviews seriously when they reference Kill List, a great film, but one that resembles this film not at all, and not Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant. Or Aguirre Wrath of God. Or really any Werner Herzog at all. Also has anyone noticed the way that Time Out's reviews so often contain a 'really too many to mention here'-type phrase? Why not sit there with your pencil and try a bit harder yeah?